Organisms carry out a complex set of chemical reactions in order to function.

Prior to the 1850s, it was thought that living things existed and functioned outside the laws of physics and chemistry – that they had a unique “life-force” that made them different to non-living things.

Cell chemistry

In the 1850s, research by Louis Pasteur provided the first strong evidence that chemistry was an important part of life. He found that a number of natural chemical reactions had to occur during the fermentation of grapes into wine. This has become the basis of biochemistry and the study of metabolism.

The complex chemistry of cells

The chemistry that goes on inside the cells is incredibly complex. Numerous reactions are taking place simultaneously and all within the confines of the cells (a space of 1–20 micrometres across). Protein synthesis is just one example of the types of reactions that constantly occur in cells.

This cell chemistry forms a complex network of interactions that are responsible for the many different functions a cell carries out.

Published 4 February 2008